Tuesday, May 25, 2010

MOTHER AND CHILD (2010)

Written & Directed by Rodrigo Garcia


Where & When: Beverly Center 13, West Hollywood, CA. May 25, 2010 12:50PM



"Mother and Child" is a powerful and touching new film about motherhood and the sacrifices that are apparently made for the best interest of the child but no one takes in to consideration the possible damage that these decisions could do to both the mother and her child.

First we meet Karen (Annette Bening) who became pregnant at fourteen and was forced to give up her baby for adoption. She is still haunted by this decision as a middle aged woman. She desperately wants to try and somehow get in contact with the child she gave up but is afraid she will be rejected.

Karen finds herself unable to develop friendships with people and is resentful of other women and their relationships with their daughters. Her mother is ill and she is caring for her but their relationship is still strained. She works as a physical therapist and a new worker, Paco (Jimmy Smits) is interested in getting to know her better and she is attracted to him but she has put up a wall to protect herself.

Naomi Watts plays Elizabeth, a no-nonsense lawyer who is angry and bitter that she was put up for adoption. She acts out by having inappropriate relationships with unavailable men and using sex as way of controlling them. Elizabeth is uncomfortable and hostile around other women since it seems she never had a decent maternal figure and she feels that they are threatened by her.

She doesn't like to stay in one place too long but she finds herself returning to her home city of Los Angeles. She has just joined a new law firm and Paul (Samuel L. Jackson) is her boss. They soon develop a causal, sexual relationship and at the same time, she starts one with her married neighbor (Marc Blucas). An unplanned situation causes Elizabeth to run away, as she usually does, but this time she re-evaluates her decisions and her usual choices to try and become a better person.

Lucy (Kerry Washington) is unable to have children but she and her husband, Joseph (David Ramsey) still want to have a baby. They decide to adopt and Sister Joanne (Cherry Jones) has a pregnant young woman, Ray (Shareeka Epps) who wants to give her child up but she insists on interviewing the couple first. Ray drills Lucy about her lack of faith and doesn't care much for Joseph but she decides to give her baby to them anyway.

Everything appears to be going well for the couple but soon things begin to unravel and Lucy must face her fears and make some tough decisions about her future.

This is the third film by Mr. Garcia, following "Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her" (2000) and "Nine Lives" (2005), that features another classy, all-star cast of talented actors and I think this is his best yet. I think this works well because it is more focused than the previous films and that helps you have more of an opportunity to stay engaged without the distraction of too many different stories in one film. Mr. Garcia has written another strong screenplay with real flesh and blood characters who are trying to handle all of the hurts and disappointments that life has handed them all the while struggling to maintain their ability to remain open and forgiving. There are a few moments that are little bit too melodramatic but he finds his way back on track.

Not surprisingly, all three of these gifted and well-respected actresses give wonderfully moving performances, most especially by Ms Bening. Since her film appearances do not happen nearly often enough, it is always great to see Ms Bening and she manages to elevate whatever she is in. In this, the pain, sadness and exhaustion that is etched on her face is really heart breaking and it just made me want to give her a hug and tell her that she's going to be okay. Mr. Jackson leaves behind his tough guy persona and surprisingly shows us his subtle and sweet side. It was nice to see and he should do it more often.

There are also nice, effective cameo appearances by S. Epatha Merkerson, David Morse, Amy Brenneman and Lisa Gay Hamilton.

"Mother and Child" is one of the best films I have seen so far this year. This is a fine film with something to actually say about real human relationships and unfortunately we don't get too many good films these days about that.